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American Influence on Japanese Industrial Design

Before the Second World War, Japanese industrial design was rooted in the national tradition of craftsmanship, and was heavily influenced by European schools of design. In the years after the war, however, it was American culture that exerted the greatest pull on the Japanese imagination. American styles, ways of living, production methods, and designs of all kinds were rapidly absorbed by an eager Japanese audience. In the half century that followed the war, Japanese culture took in, and transformed, many American influences. In the area of industrial design, this transformation produced a hybrid that is distinctively Japanese. Examples of this progressive japanization of American influence can be found in such products as consumer electronics and automobiles. These were two of the many areas in which Japanese production, planning, and design made the nation one of the principal economic powers in the world.

Japan has a long history of taking in elements from other cultures and making them its own. This did not mean that the old was merely replaced by the new. For example, when Buddhism was imported from China, "it left room for Shintoism," the existing religion, and the two coexist today" (Sparke 10). This pattern was repeated many times, as imported ideas passed through periods of "enthusiastic imitation," followed by creative "acceptance and rejection, adaptation and innovation," and ended by meshing the new with the traditional culture (Pekarik 79). Thus, the Japanese process of assimilation and adaptation produces "a hybrid culture," while it promotes "the indigenous culture of the country as well" (Kamoshida 4).

In the Meiji period (1868-1912), when Japan was opened to the West, the government vigorously promoted industrialization, believing that Japan's survival depended on becoming "a full member of the international community" (Kamoshida 4). In the attempt to modernize as rapidly as possible, the state too...

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American Influence on Japanese Industrial Design. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 00:06, May 25, 2020, from